Rome is full of incredible things to visit, but if you want something really exclusive, there’s only one place to go: the Vatican Scavi. Also known as the Vatican City Necropolis, The Tomb of the Dead, or St. Peter’s Tomb, the Scavi is famous for being the final resting place of one of Jesus’ 12 apostles, Peter. Here’s how you can see St. Peter’s Tomb.
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Visiting St. Peter’s Tomb: What We’ll Cover
If you want to see St. Peter’s Tomb, you’ll need to put a visit to the Vatican Scavi on your itinerary. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about St. Peter’s Tomb, where to see it, and how to get tickets.
- What is the Vatican Necropolis?
- Where is St. Peter’s Tomb?
- How to get tickets
- How long is the Scavi / Necropolis tour?
- What are the Vatican Grottoes?
What is the Vatican Necropolis?
First off, let’s define the Greek word Necropolis. “Necro” means dead, and “Polis” means city. Put them together and you have the City of the Dead—or what we would call a cemetery today.
In Ancient Roman times, the area across the river (where the Vatican is today) was not a very hospitable part of the city. It was mostly low-lying, which meant flooding and malaria. This is one of the reasons why it was a popular area for cemeteries (necropoli). Recent excavations have found dozens of Mausolea in the area.
The necropolis wasn’t always underground. Originally, it was an open-air cemetery with tombs and mausolea. The mausoleums unearthed were initially labeled with the Greek alphabet letters Φ (phi), Χ (chi), and Ψ (Psi). Later, they were marked with Latin letters.
Where is St. Peter’s Tomb?
In the 1940s, as they were expanding the underground area to bury the popes who had died, they found the ancient necropolis and a significant piece of ancient graffiti, which translated as “Peter is here.”
As the story goes, St. Peter was crucified in Rome in A.D. 64 on the orders of Emperor Nero. Then, when Constantine became the first Roman emperor to embrace Christianity in the 4th century, he had a church built on the site of St. Peter’s grave—this was the original St. Peter’s Basilica. When Michelangelo designed the current Saint Peter’s Basilica, he centered the dome right over the spot where St. Peter’s grave was.
There is some debate as to whether the bones really are St. Peter’s. However, there are a few archaeologists today who are quite sure that bone fragments retrieved here belonged to the man himself.
If you search online for the Vatican Necropolis, you will often come across the word Scavi, which simply means excavations in Italian. After the above-mentioned excavations were complete, they decided to offer visits to the necropolis. As a result, the tour was called the Scavi Tour named after the excavations of the 1940s and this is where you’ll visit St. Peter’s Tomb.
How To Get Tickets To See St. Peter’s Tomb
The only way to get tickets for the Vatican Scavi is to email the Scavi Office directly, at sc[email protected]. You will need to provide the following in the email:
- The exact number of visitors (please remember that no children under 15 are allowed).
- The names and surnames of each visitor you need tickets for.
- Your preferred language for the tour.
- The dates you are available for a visit (the more you give, the more chance you have!).
- Your contact information.
It’s best to send the email as early as possible. In fact, the best time would be to send the email the moment you book your flights. It’s a VIP experience for a reason—only 250 people are allowed through each day! If you compare that to the 20,000 that visit the Vatican Museums, it’s an incredibly small number. Tickets are notoriously hard to get and tours get booked up months and months in advance.
Tickets are €13 per person. Concession tickets are not available, and when you receive confirmation of an available spot, you must pay for the tickets online within 10 days in order to secure them.
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How Long is the Scavi / Necropolis Tour?
The tour includes a maximum of 12 people and lasts around 90 minutes. While the guided tour only takes around 1.5 hours, be sure to factor in the time it will take you to find the entrance and show your tickets as you plan.
You’ll get to see the actual tomb of St. Peter and the bones of the dead Apostle at the end of the tour in the Vatican grottoes, underneath the Basilica. You are free to explore these for as long as you like before heading up to see the Basilica.
What Are The Vatican Grottoes?
The Vatican Grottoes is a vast underground graveyard below St. Peter’s Basilica, which you’ll be able to see at the end of the Scavi tour. It contains the tombs and sarcophagi of many popes, as well as secular monarchs such as the tomb of Queen Charlotte of Cyprus, the tomb of the Stuarts, and the tomb of Queen Christina of Sweden.
There are also some incredible archaeological sights, such as the remaining columns from the original 4th-century basilica. The entrance is in the Pier of St. Andrew near the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, and it’s free to enter. However, there may well be a line. These grottoes form part of our Detailed Itinerary Vatican Tour.
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